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States Consider Taxing Self-Driving Cars to Make Up for Lost Gas Revenue

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GM’s self-driving Chevy Bolt
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Increasingly efficient cars are having one unfortunate consequence for state and federal governments—they actually reduce their tax revenue. This is for the simple reason that, generally, to pay for infrastructure costs, the government typically uses revenue raised from taxes on gasoline sales, which, at least at the federal level, have not been adjusted since 1993.

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So, cars use less gas, and the government makes less money. Roads and bridges are still deteriorating, however, so the question becomes, “Where else can the needed money come from?”

For some states, the answer will apparently be to tax self-driving cars. Massachusetts is currently mulling over a 2.5-cent-per-mile tax on self-driving vehicles, while in Tennessee the legislature considers a 1-cent-per-mile tax on self-driving cars and a 2.6-cent-per-mile tax on autonomous trucks with more than two axles.

Self-driving cars are being targeted is their increasing importance in the future of automobiles, and their tendency to be either highly fuel-efficient or fully electric, thus paying little to no money into the traditional infrastructure fund.

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According to Paul Lewis, vice president of police and finance for the Eno Center for Transportation think tank, which proposed a federal self-driving car tax, it is also because, to start with, self-driving cars will probably be for rich people.

“The fee is on automated driving, something that doesn’t exist yet,” he said. “So there’s not a built-in constituency for it. And it’s for elites because, at least initially, autonomous vehicles are going to be expensive. So it doesn’t have this kind of tax on middle America.”

News Source: Detroit Free Press